A-League record appearance holder and Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic goes 1v1 with the PFA to reflect on his ten years in the competition, the progress that has been made, the lows, the support and the joys of being a new Dad.

Q. You made your debut in 2005, what are your recollections of your first A-League game?

DV: I wasn’t expecting to play the game. I remember John Crawley was our first team keeper at the Mariners and he was struggling with a hip injury on both sides. I remember walking on the beach in Terrigal on the day of the game and I got a phone call from Laurie McKinna to say I would playing that night. It was probably not the best preparation being out in the sun before a game. It was pretty much an instant fear and I was pretty daunted and was worried about making a mistake. I think I ended up having a pretty good game but we ended up losing.

Q. Did you still get those same nerves now?

DV: I still get the nerves. I think now it is probably something that I enjoy. I think in my first couple of games I kind of forgot to enjoy playing football and there was more of a fear of not doing well and letting my teammates down. Now I get nervous too but I feed off that adrenaline.

Q. How different is the A-League now compared to when you made your debut?

DV: It has grown so much, certainly with the fans and I think the quality of football has improved a lot. I think in those early years a team would just get by on working hard and digging in but I think now it has become much more of a tactical game. In the first few seasons it was not like that.

Q. You had plenty of highs during your time at the club but there was one big low, your send off in the grand final, which resulted in a lengthy ban. How difficult was that time in your career?

DV: It was one of the toughest things I have been through, especially at that point in my life. Having to do it in the public eye made it tougher. It affected me more a little later down the track once things had sunk in and the realization of what I had done and the consequences of my actions. It came flooding back when I was back home in Sydney watching the Olyroos over in Beijing playing without me as I would have been there with them had it not been for my stupid actions. It probably held me back in my career and there were couple of years where I went missing.

You live and you learn and it’s funny how one split second can change the course of your career and your life and it happens to a lot of people. I think it has made me a better person and a better footballer in the end. Hopefully at the end of my career I’m remembered for a lot more than that.

Q. How much support did you receive during what must have been a tough time?

DV: Family and loved ones were a big support for me during that time and the Mariners were brilliant and the fans really looked after me during those tough times. They helped financially and I had to pay a fine and the PFA contributed to my legal fees and helped with all the appeals. So many people rallied around me and helped me through a tough time.

Q. Your form after the ban would see you attract the attention of clubs across Europe before choosing to join Turkish club Konyaspor. Things unfortunately did not go to plan did they?

DV: It was always a goal of mine to head to Europe. We were coming up to another World Cup and the thought process was to get to Europe and to play regular football and try to get into the Socceroos squad. That was the big reason, the club was Konyaspor and they were coming from the second division in Turkey. At that time Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill were playing in Turkey, so there was a lot of thought put into it.

It was an exciting time and I thought finally it was my chance to play in Europe and play against some great teams. It turned out to be a disaster and the team didn’t want me there anymore. I needed to look for a club and the A-League season was already running. The PFA was the second call I made and again they helped me through a tough time in my career.

Q. Was it hard to get focused back on playing after the disappointment of Turkey?

DV: For me not so much. For me football has always been what I love to do and whenever I’m playing I’m always working hard and always want to do my best so playing has always been the easy part for me. The hard part is when you are at home by yourself when you are thinking about what could have been. For me football has always been a way of helping me through difficult times rather than making things harder. I put my head down and worked hard and had a pretty good season at the Phoenix.

Q. At the end of last season you made the decision to leave Perth. How do you look back on your time at the club?

DV: For the most part it was wonderful. Wherever I have played I have always been grateful for my time there and I have always been really well looked after and I have always had great relationships with the supporters and it was like that in Perth. My first year was great, we made the Grand Final and I’m always going to look back at my time at Perth with fond memories. The last few months, with everything to do with the salary cap, were tough. We had a great group of players and the supporters deserved the experience of the finals but it wasn’t to be. It was tough at the time but I think everyone has moved on.

Q. The off-season saw your become a Dad. How have you found that?

DV: It has been the best thing I have done. Football prior to him arriving was the big priority and I put everything into that but now it puts things into perspective. Gone are the days when I have bad day in training and come home and stew on it and dwell on it. I come home and see my boy and football is last thing on my mind. It’s something that parents out there will know exactly what I mean. Sleep deprivation can be tough and until you experience it first hand you can’t understand it, but I’m loving it. The subtle changes in him and seeing him grow and change is truly amazing.

Q. Having experienced the highs and lows of the game, how important is it to have support during your career?

DV: It’s extremely important for a number of reasons. If I use myself as an example football was everything to me so if things weren’t going great it can be pretty difficult time away from it. I think it is important that young players have passions outside of football and put time and effort into something away from the game.

If you are putting everything into football, it is never going to be something that is smooth sailing, there are a lot of difficulties along the way, injuries, losing big games, getting dropped and all that, so that would be my advice – have other passions that help you stay grounded and forget about football when you need to.

Q. Finally, having seen the competition make such great progress what do you believe is now needed for the A-League to go to another level?

DV: I think ‘world class’ environments for training are important. I think some clubs and FFA look at it in the wrong way, in a dollar and cents way, rather than as an investment in the game and the players. The better the quality on the pitch the more money that will be coming in, whether that is through people coming to the games or sponsors or TV. Every thing we have tried to put forward in the CBA negotiations has been for the betterment of everyone and the game.

Each week the PFA will go 1v1 with a current or former player to gain an insight into the lives of footballers on and off the pitch.